How many scientists does it take to change the light bulb?

Waterloo research team develops nanotech light bulb that could revolutionize energy-efficient lighting

By Kira Vermond

Marketing and Strategic Communications

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Want a crisp cool white light to wake you up in the morning and a warm yellow glow to wind you down at night? How about a spray for your windows that will let sunlight in during the day but illuminate your living room at night?

Scientists at the University of Waterloo are working to actually give consumers these options with a new nanotech light bulb that could revolutionize energy-efficient lighting.

Pavle Radovanovic, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry is combining nanoparticles that absorb energy from external sources, with organic dye molecules to create pure white light that can actually be tuned to fall anywhere on the colour spectrum.

Arunasish Layek, Pavle Radovanovic and Paul Stanish

Left to right: Arunasish Layek, Paul Stanish and Pavle Radovanovic

“We are coming closer to actually being able to produce white light for any given environment,” says Radovanovic, who is also a member of the University’s Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.

Waterloo technology has warm light and energy efficiency

Advancing energy efficient and inexpensive lighting technology is important because incandescent bulbs – which many people still prefer for their warm light – are notoriously energy inefficient. They typically convert up to five per cent of electricity into light while the rest becomes heat.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) contain dangerous mercury and emit a cool bluish light few want in their homes. LED light bulbs are gaining traction, but users still complain about price, and the ghostly, poor-quality hue.

Radovanovic’s technology addresses these concerns and could be used in multiple and exciting ways since the nanocrystals are transparent and can be developed in liquid form as a spray solution for your windows that could light a room.

Research team looks to launch nanotech startup

With so many possible applications, it’s little wonder light manufacturers are taking notice and Radovanovic is in talks with an intellectual venture capital firm. A start-up company may be on the horizon.

Even so, Radovanovic is quick to point out that none of it would have happened without his team’s commitment to advancing fundamental research.

“We did not say, ‘OK, we’re going to go out and create a new light emitting device that nobody else has done before.’ If you do the basic science right, then usually all kinds of unexpected applications come from it,” he says.